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Carter Lavin
Carter Lavin

Is It Easy Being Verde?

Monumento a Alfonso XII

Creative Commons License Photo credit: Mossaiq

Where you live determines many things about who you are. Whether it is your quality of education, cultural awareness or general health, it’s all about location location location. Being green is no exception. Currently I am visiting Madrid, and I keep wondering to myself “how easy it for the citizens to be green?†It is Southern Europe after all so we know they use less gas, electricity and water than we do in the US, which is mainly caused by much higher prices of those commodities here and that the region has serious issues with droughts in the summer. But the whole story is not explained by price. After all, I am a tourist who doesn’t pay any utilities here, but I am still being green(er) than usual because of the Madrid infrastructure.

First off, Madrid actually has a city-wide recycling system unlike Philadelphia, New York and Washington DC (all places I’ve called home at one point or another). There are giant recycling bins dotted throughout the city, clearly labeled so even a foreigner like myself whose Spanish is not the best, can understand. I have seen them in every stage of varying stages of overflowing to nearly empty, but the key thing is that they are being used and used correctly. I’m not sure what the residential recycling system is yet, what kind of things they take or even if there is one, but it’s only my second night here.

Secondly, the infrastructure is there to use water efficiently in both city parks and businesses. At my hostel (Cat’s Hostel) all faucets are on timers (very, very short timers) which practically makes all showers navy showers. But since the user has no control over how the water runs, I can’t stop it when I just wanted to quickly rinse my hands or tooth brush. As far as water management goes, I think that is still a net plus although slightly inconvenient (which raises questions about the efficiency vs. convenient chart).

Thirdly, the city of Madrid gets major points for irrigating its flora properly using drip irrigation and not sprinklers in el Parque de Buen Retiro (its central park). I do not understand why other cities and organizations (like my school Georgetown) do not use this exceedingly simple and efficient form of watering.

Finally, every toilet I have seen here (and that I noticed on my trip to Israel last year) has the two types of flush capability; one for liquid waste and the other for both types. I have yet to figure out how to do it properly though which tells us two things. I am probably a fool for not being able to figure it out (much like Sylvester Stalone in Demolition Man) and that you have to give people more than just the resources to be efficient or green, you have to let them know how to use them properly.

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